How Digital Transformation in Financial Services is Helping Firms Increase Operational Efficiency

In this article, we explore how digital transformation in Financial Services is helping adviser firms to increase operational efficiency and enjoy various other benefits.

Digital transformation has shifted from being a buzzword to an unavoidable business requirement. Changing customer expectations, increasingly complex regulatory requirements, growing competition and pressure to streamline processes contribute to the demand for innovative digital solutions.

Why is digital transformation in Financial Services such a hot topic?

Across the Financial Services industry, the need for more cost-effective solutions, ever-growing compliance requirements and heightened consumer expectations of customer experiences are making digital transformation a high priority for businesses.

A 2021 survey revealed that 97% of financial institutions have a digital strategy in place, and 77% plan to increase their digital investments next year. Furthermore, of those with existing digital initiatives, 87% reported that these initiatives successfully delivered positive outcomes.

For advisers, clients are now expecting quick advice delivery, with remote servicing becoming the norm. As a result, firms must ensure they can support customers effectively, without meeting face-to-face, whilst having efficient processes and sophisticated analytical tools to create the most suitable investment plan for clients that delivers the best possible outcomes. 

With industry newcomers emerging that boast innovation as their core differentiator, more established firms need to explore digital transformation strategies to remain competitive. 

How is digital transformation changing the landscape for advisers?

Driven by the need to deal with clients remotely and deliver speedy service, businesses are increasingly digitising and automating certain advisory processes. Firms that remain on legacy systems and use older, more traditional methods are at risk of getting left behind or underserving their clients. Improved efficiency and reduced time and resources associated with servicing clients mean advisers can either take on more clients or provide a more cost-effective service. 

With the client demand for 24-hour service access and self-service capabilities, and user-friendliness when accessed remotely, advisers need more efficient financial planning tools. With data more accessible online and in CRM systems, these tools need to quickly identify client problems and suggest solutions, ultimately speeding up the process for advisers and helping them provide effective solutions and more informed financial plans.

What does Financial Services digital transformation look like for adviser firms?

Digitalisation can positively affect financial firms, depending on your business needs. Here are some common examples of digital transformation in action for advisers:

  • Replacing paper with online facilities, like sending out a link for a risk profiler that clients need to populate rather than a hardcopy that must be manually completed.
  • Streamlining data and fact-finding - instead of sending out paper forms for clients to fill out, they can enter their details into a digital system, which speeds up the process and allows it to be easily accessed and reviewed regularly.
  • Integrating data into digital platforms, allowing instant access to up-to-date asset valuations, which empowers advisers to quote and apply for products digitally, speeding up product acquisition and reducing potential errors. 

Ultimately, digital transformation allows new processes to be created that use tools that ensure suitability and planning are consistently completed across a firm’s advisers’ processes by removing manual intervention. 

How does digital transformation in Financial Services increase operational efficiency?

When applied correctly, digital transformation in Financial Services can positively impact operational considerations like profit, the size of a firm’s client base and cost per advice. Digital transformation innovations like automation can maximise operational efficiency due to less human error and improved cost and process management. Once you’ve identified and implemented exactly what digital methods and tools can help streamline and optimise your unique processes, operational efficiency will follow.

Measuring operational efficiency

When measuring your firm’s operational efficiency, establishing the right metrics is important to accurately measure performance and make appropriate adjustments using technology. When analysing your profitability, calculate the number of clients a single adviser can deal with, and what your cost per advice is. Then consider where tools like automation can help improve labour-intensive processes. It’s also worth investigating RegTech solutions that can help offer granular insights into your operations where compliance risks may reside. Once you’ve identified areas for improvement, develop a formal change strategy that can be implemented from the top down through leaders and project managers.

Transforming adviser systems and processes

The real-time data availability in a firm that’s being through a digital transformation process makes for better scenario planning, more advanced forecasting, predictive modelling and better data visualisation to accompany advice, budgeting and reporting. However, outdated, legacy systems that don’t allow for interoperability are a barrier to achieving this level of efficiency and should be decommissioned or remodelled to accommodate new technology. 

End-to-end adviser processes that cover the full scope of advice and delivery are also becoming a priority. So, striving for an all-in-one financial planning solution to replace your disparate systems and processes is ideal for firms considering embarking on a digital transformation project. 

Additionally, ensuring adviser teams have the communication tools necessary for quick and easy communication with remote clients is another element to consider when looking to meet client expectations through digital transformation.

Transforming mindsets and organisational culture for the digitisation journey

As with any change, adequate management must be in place to avoid unnecessary stress and concern for advisers and clients. It would help if you had an effective change management strategy with an articulated purpose that your advisers can get behind. Additionally, advisers may worry that previously suitable advice would become unsuitable if processes change. By demonstrating the long-term benefits of overhauling existing systems and processes, advisers should be able to see how their advice processes will become optimised and more relevant to clients, easing any concerns they may have about the quality of their advice. 

Implementing system and process changes also require time and cost commitments, so when selecting tools for your digital transformation strategy, ensure they’re worth the spend and that costs can be explained to stakeholders so that the business benefits are crystal clear. For example, although training and expenditure are unavoidable elements of digital transformation in Financial Services, they’re a means to a justified end that needs to be communicated effectively.

Overall, encouraging a culture of curiosity amongst your advisers and implementing digital transformation strategically can help ease your firm into new ways of working that will soon lead to more efficient operations.

Summary

The efficiency benefits of digital transformation in Financial Services are clear, and it’s a journey that every firm needs to consider embarking on. A thorough understanding of your operational shortfalls, opportunities for improvement and the digital solutions available to help streamline your overall service offering is key. 

Partnering with a technology expert that understands your industry and how modern adviser software drives better client outcomes can steer you in the right direction and help you gain a competitive advantage.

So what next?

If you recognise the need for digitally enhanced advisory processes, but you’re unclear on how to begin your digital transformation journey, our Guide to Modernising Your Financial Planning Advice Process and Technology is a handy resource. It provides insights into modern financial planning software and how you can start adopting it.

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